Confident. Intense. Driven. Competitive. Brutally honest. All of that and more can be said about St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham.
“That guy means business,” stated Luke Weaver. “There’s no other way to put it. The way he dresses, the way he talks, the way he walks, I mean, it’s Tommy Pham. I mean, Yadi’s the godfather, but Pham is gonna closely follow that down the road. He’s just a great guy to have around. He’s just a special guy and yeah, that’s contagious.
“I think you see a guy go out there and care about baseball so much and what he puts in and how he goes about his business. You take it from different perspectives and angles of kinda what he’s doing but there’s always something to take away from what he’s doing. I definitely think there’s something there and he’s just gonna keep doing his thing and we’re just gonna keep following.”
“I just show up and play,” responds Pham to what his leadership role is growing into. “I just say honest responses.”
But more people are hearing those responses, inside the clubhouse and out.
And as some try to gauge if one standout season is enough to give Pham that large of a voice, here’s the thing to remember, the player Tommy Pham is the hardest on is Tommy Pham.
Simply repeating a season which saw him become the first 20/20 player in 13 years for the Cardinals isn’t enough. Pham has a loftier goal.
“Personally, I think I’m a 30/30 player,” he shared. “I probably would have gotten it if I was up all year. I had more 30 bases if you count Triple-A and the big leagues. I fell maybe a couple home runs shy of it? I could get that with more focus and really putting my body in these consistent position I’m looking for. I’m focusing on me speed to really elevate my game defensively. If I’m faster, I’m going to catch more balls. If I catch more balls, I save more runs for the team. That’s the name of the game, preventing runs and scoring runs.”
There’s that confidence again. But as Pham continues, he reveals there isn’t a selfish motivation to his thinking.
“That’s the expectations, you know?,” he replied. “I’m expecting myself to do this to help the team win. I feel like with (Matt) Carpenter and me, we’re two guys, I told Carp last year, ‘If you really improve on the base running, we could be the best 1-2 in baseball.” Because he gets on base, he drives the ball and I do the same. I get on base, he drives the ball. If he could go from first to home or second to home and I do my thing, then Dex does thing, Ozuna does his thing, it’s gonna be a lot of runs. And like I said that’s the name of the game, you prevent runs and you score runs. At the end of the game it’s who has more runs on the board.”
There’s that brutal honesty again. How did Carpenter respond to the suggestion of improving his speed?
“He agreed actually,” shared Pham.
“It is important,” echoed Carpenter later in the afternoon. “One of the reasons I love Tommy so much is he’s a motivator. He’s always on guys, and I can think of a lot of times when I’d be on second base and he’d be yelling at me from first. A lot of times I’d be like, ‘Dude. Relax.’ But it’s a great thing to have a guy like that on the team.”
Some may have been more offended than motivated, but Carpenter is someone who gets Pham.
“The first place I ever went as a professional Tommy Pham was there,” pointed out Carpenter. “He was an 18 year old kid and from where he is today compared to where he was…I told him if someone would have asked me and said this guy is going to play in big leagues, at that point in time I would have said there’s no way. Like there’s zero chance. He’s super talented but I wouldn’t have ever seen it. For a lot of different reasons. But the person he is today, from where he came from, it’s night and day.
“From a work ethic–he’s always been a worker, but the maturity level grew and being able to handle failure. I think that was the biggest thing when he was younger, being able to handle the failure the game brings. He’s just grown up so much. So I understand how he ticks, because I’ve been around him.
“But the thing about Tommy Pham is he’s a confident guy, but he doesn’t really have a filter when he says what he says. But there’s just no fake about him. He’s just truthful and he’s gonna tell you how he feels. That’s a good thing for a clubhouse to have a guy like that. At the core of who Tommy is, he wants to work, he wants to win, he wants to play hard and he wants to compete. From a teammate standpoint, that’s all you can ask for. A guy that comes out every day, works hard, plays hard and wants to win. That’s who Tommy Pham is so I love having him around.”
Already considered to be one of if not the fastest player in the Cardinals organization, Pham set a goal to improve his speed this off-season. And not just improve, but catch those elite burners in the National League.
“(Trea) Turner, (Billy) Hamilton, (Byron) Buxton,” rattled off Pham, who has used a special harness-equipped treadmill for over-speed training this offseason. “Those are the three fast guys that I’m looking at. That treadmill it translates to you take 2 mph off the treadmill–that’s your ground speed. I’m only at 24. So my ground speed is 22. Turner ran 22.7. So you see I’m behind.”
And how does he know the times that clocks those three players as the fastest?
“That’s research all done,” Pham smiled. “I’ve had people in the Cardinals dig up the research for me. You see, I do my homework.”
It’s that sort of drive and determination that continues to earn Pham respect and a larger voice in the Cardinals clubhouse.
“Oh we love it,” said Adam Wainwright. “Last year, Tommy stood up in the middle of the clubhouse one time and started yelling at folks and guys were looking at me like, ‘Are you going to do something to stop him?’ and I was like, ‘Man, absolutely not.’ I love that about this guy. He’s 29 years old or whatever he was, not even a year in the show and he’s got the stones to stand up and call out an entire big league clubhouse full of a bunch of guys who are divas and go right at them? Man, I love that. He brings an attitude to our team that we need. That competitive drive that we need.”
Taking away hits. Adding more speed. Driving the ball with more power.
“I’m just trying to be the best player that I can be,” said Pham, who isn’t thinking about a long-term contract just yet. “That would be selling myself short. I believe that I could be a really special player and all I’ve got to do – I just need time to show it.”
photo credit: BIll Greenblatt/UPI